Sunday, January 31, 2016

f3 lake half marathon 2016 recap

Disclaimer: I received entry into F3 Lake Half Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!

Some shots from the race.

I was excited to be able to race F3 Lake Half Marathon for my second year. I really enjoyed it last year and was happy to see that they listened to runner feedback about some things that could have been better in 2015 and were applying it to 2016 (i.e. more water and food at the finish). They had sent out a survey the day after the race (and did the same this year). I'm happy to fill them out, so they can see where their strengths and weaknesses are. Usually, I don't have many negative things to say about a race, and they same went for this one both years. 

Flat Heather ready to go!

The race was being held on Saturday, January 23 with a half marathon start of 10am and 5k start of 10:20. I like doing winter races, because why should race season only be a few months out of the year? It's all year for me! It's a good way to stay motivated throughout the winter (I know some people get a bit depressed about winter weather, but I'm a big fan of running in the cold, as long as I have the necessary gear. Even running in the snow and ice on the trails is fun for me!). 

They had multiple days and locations for packet pickup, which I always give races props to on this. I know it isn't easy to organize such a thing, but really appreciate the ability to be able to pick up my packet when it's most convenient for me during the week rather than having to leave work early to make it on time on a Friday evening (and when a lot are in the city, it is no easy task). Pickup was available from Saturday, January 16–Friday, January 22 (only day not available was on Wednesday), at locations ranging from Dick Pond Lisle, Road Runner Sports Willamette and Downtown Chicago, and RunningExcels Frankfort. Time frames ranged from 10–5, 10–6, 4–8, and 10–8, so you had a lot of options to make it work with your schedule. You were able to pick up other people's packets as long as you had a copy of their confirmation email or photo id (they even stressed not to print, but to show on your phone). New this year was Will Call Race Day Pickup, which was an extra $20 fee when registering.

Was able to meet up with the BibRave ladies - Julia and Cass!

I went to Road Runner Sports in Chicago on January the 17th – received a 10% off coupon for RRS (which I used on some running necessities), and got to see my twitter pal Shawna in person! So awesome that she helped me out, even though at first we didn't even recognize each other. She saw my name for registration and then it clicked. I generally miss people unless their handle is written on their shirt or something haha. Anyway, super easy pickup.


This year at packet pickup, you received your drawstring bag and bib, and then the shirt and beanie were to be picked up post-race inside the United Club. There was a bit of a snafu with the shirts – there was a problem with shipping and the shirts were held up at customs. They had a few boxes to hand out after the race, but they requested that if possible, runners not grab theirs until later in the week when the rest arrived so that out of town runners could grab theirs after the race. Also, for anyone doing the 5k, they could get a beanie instead of a shirt, since those must have been more plentiful and were readily available. They planned on having shirts at RRS Chicago, Killdeer, Willamette, and Naperville, and Running Excels (both locations) during the week, and sent out plenty of emails to update the runners on what the situation was, when shirts could be picked up, etc.

A super awesome perk to this winter race is that pre- and post-race are inside Soldier Field's United Club! So, you can stay in the nice, warm indoors about 10 minutes prior to race and then right back inside when you are done. Great way to warm back up, too. Parking was a special event fee of $19 at the North Garage, and then you don't even have to go outside to get into the United Club – just enter at Level 3. You can use inside bathrooms, or there is a line of port-o-potties outside by the start. I went to the bathroom before the race, maybe 20 minutes before the start, and I almost missed it. There was a long line of men waiting, but no women's line anywhere to be seen. I couldn't figure it out where the ladies room was... turned out, same area, there just wasn't a wait. So strange to see the men have to wait in a line and not have to wait in one myself. What a pleasant surprise! haha.

They had Gear Check (though I didn't use it) which opened at 8am and closed at 1:40. Photographers were at the start (and I imagine finish - I don't remember seeing them though) and maybe at two points on course. Downloads were free. The course had 4 aid stations, each you hit twice, since the course was mostly an out and back. Gatorade first and then water. There was also first aid and bathroom(s). Even though I'm slower than most, still plenty of water and Gatorade until the finish. I remember last year not being able to get water towards the end, so glad this wasn't an issue this year (though I did bring my own hydration, because if you know me, I'm a thirsty lass and like to drink whenever the mood strikes haha).

The start was right outside Soldier Field, and then you ran towards the west, ran north around Soldier Field, headed east, and then got on the Lakefront Path heading south. Turn around was around mile 7.5ish (before hitting 63rd Street). The path was clear of snow/ice and you only had to avoid a few small puddles. The path is definitely not as crowded during winter with cyclists or other runners training, so congestion wasn't much of an issue (for me at least - not sure how it was for those faster folks). Once on your way back, the Finish Line was on the FLP, so you didn't circle SF again. 

After the Start, the first turn to head North. Soldier Field to left.

Race day was a beautiful winter day - about 30 degrees, mostly cloudy, with winds at about 8mph. I warmed up pretty quickly, ended up taking off my Buff, but then on the way back towards SF (headed North), the wind was worse and I had to put it back on haha. I had a great time hanging with my mom and we talked briefly with another woman who was walking most of it due to coming back from illness who was super nice. She had just done Goofy, so we talked runDisney for a bit too :)

Mom and I kept a pretty good pace, and we were pleased with our finish time. We have been slowly getting better times, so I'm happy with our progress. This wasn't necessarily a goal race, so I was happy to stay with her and we kept each other company. The time always passes faster when there's someone to talk to (or just be with - I still listen to music for those times we have nothing to say).

We were able to cheer on runners on their way back, and I got to high-five my goal Jake as well as get some photos of the adorable Julia.

Look at that smile! Julia's having a great time.

At the Finish Line there were bananas, bagels, Skinny Pop popcorn, bottled water, and apparently hot chocolate (I missed that stop, but that's ok - definitely wanted that bottled water more). We popped back inside, and since we were some of the last runners out there, and usually with at least a 2 hour drive roundtrip to get to any of the locations to get our shirts, we grabbed our shirts. I did see an email later in the day that the only shirt sizes that weren't available were women's XS and XL, and men's L, XL, and XXL, none of which were the two shirts we grabbed, so I felt less guilty.

Lake Michigan was a little icy - very pretty.

Post-Race party was at Reggie's in the South Loop. They had a free shuttle to bring people there from Soldier Field, which was a nice race perk. We ended up heading home, but it seemed like a lot of people were going there.

I really appreciated how they sent out surveys after the race so they can improve every year. I also love that they actually listen to what the runners have to say and do improve upon any major (and sometimes minor) problems.

Post-race SWAG for half marathoners:
bottle opener medal, beanie, and long sleeve tech shirt.

I'll definitely be looking into doing this race again in 2017 (there's also a 5k for anyone that doesn't want to for the half in winter time).

My friend and fellow BibRave Pro Cass interviewed the Founder of the race - read it here. Learning what F3 stands for makes the race even better! I also loved learning about how the race got its start - super interested read. Also love that she says the race is for people who like to run and drink beer {raises hand - that's me!}.

You can read a short/less personal review of my F3 Lake Half Marathon experience over on BibRave.

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